DigNation Festival

13 - 14 June 2020

DigNation is a huge, free, virtual festival celebrating amazing archaeology projects around the world

DigNation: Big Dig Energy is a free, two-day online festival that brings together some of the best archaeologists around the world who want to share their latest discoveries with you.

From Albania to America, from Chile to Croatia, from England to Ethiopia, from Italy to India, you’ll get to discover ancient sites from across the globe that many people will never have heard of – but really should!

Our line-up will be released in blocks at 10:00, 12:00, and 14:00 BST (GMT+1) each day.

❤️10:00, 💛12:00, 💚14:00

🖤10:00, 💙12:00, 💜14:00

We’re still adding more and more speakers to the programme, and will email you when the final talks are all in place, but rest assured: with each block that is released, you’ll get to hear about the latest discoveries – straight from the archaeologists themselves.

Here’s a taste of what’s to come:

❤️ Albania

Project Nivica Archaeology

The Illyrian peoples were an important player on the Mediterranean stage, and now their legacy is being rewritten in part by new discoveries. Accidental finds made by local farmers include high-status burial items like coins, rare swords and perfume bottles, as well as everyday items like loom weights which tell the stories of everyday life and international trade connections. In this talk, Aisling Tierney and the Project Nivica team reveal their efforts to bring Illyria back to life by sharing their discoveries from the landscape and ruins of the Kurvelesh mountains.

❤️ Belgium

Waterloo Uncovered

Waterloo Uncovered is a charity on a mission to combine world-class archaeology with support for veterans and the military community. In this talk, the team describe their recent excavations at the site of the battle of Waterloo, in partnership with some of Europe’s top universities, and how they provide archaeologists, veterans and serving soldiers with unique insights that help us understand war and it impacts.

❤️ Bulgaria

Bacho Kiro Cave and the earliest known humans in Europe

Until now, most of the earliest human fossils in Europe were between 41,500-45,000 years old, but new discoveries from Baco Kiro cave are pushing that back even further. Helen Fewless is an archaeological scientist specialising in radiocarbon dating at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. In this talk, she reveals some of the discoveries inside the cave, and what they mean for the story of Homo sapiens.

❤️ Canada

Elephant Hill Fire Survey

Joanne Hammond is the Director of Heritage at Skeetchestn Natural Resources in Canada, in the territory occupied by Secwepemc people and their ancestors for at least 10,000 years. Following a huge forest wildfire, they’ve been able to carry out an archaeological survey on a vast scale, revealing hundreds more sites. Their discoveries are turning archaeological assumptions on their head – in places that have been traditionally written off as wilderness, what they’re seeing is an intensively used cultural landscape marked by countless generations.

❤️ Chile

The Furthest Frontier of the Spanish Empire

How did Spanish colonialism impact the indigenous communities of the Reche-Mapuche in Chile? As part of this impressive historical archaeology project, Beatriz Marin Aguilera has been charting the story of these unconquerable peoples who were granted independence by the Spanish Crown, and managed to fight off both the Dutch and the British. In this talk, she reveals the team’s study of the region’s material culture, and how it paints a picture of a dynamic colonial frontier that was influenced by many nations and cultures, both big and small.

❤️ Croatia

Lovas Archaeology Project

The banks of the River Danube are one of the most fertile regions in Europe. That’s why, six thousand years ago, people came to live here and developed some of the most extraordinary Neolithic and Bronze Age settlements on the continent. But what happened next? As part of the Lovas Archaeology Project, Filip Frankovich – an archaeologist at Zegreb Museum – has been investigating many of the settlements. In this talk, he reveals how an international team has been unearthing a new chapter of Croatian prehistory – all while helping a rural community conserve and explore a remarkable part of their past.

💛 Detox

Detoxing archaeology – what does it mean?

In this talk, Subhadra Das and DV’s Lisa Westcott Wilkins discuss one of the most important changes happening in archaeology right now across every aspect of the field, from commercial archaeology to academia, museums, community work and beyond: decolonisation.

💛 Digital

Digital Archives in Archaeology

Digital technologies have transformed the way in which archaeologists work! As a result, the question of how to handle digital archive data has been a hot topic in archaeology for years – and now DigVentures, in partnership with the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists, has been working to do something about it. Join DigVentures’ Manda Forster as she discusses the progress made since 2018 and details just how archaeologists can integrate these new innovations into their research to create sustainable archaeological archives.

💛 Egypt

Writing about village life in Late Antique Egypt

Dr Jenny Cromwell is a lecturer in ancient history at Manchester Metropolitan University. Unable to start new research, she’s been using lockdown to write the book she’s always wanted to write! While most of the discoveries we hear about from Egypt include pharaohs and pyramids, she’s been piecing together evidence of daily life in Late Antique Egypt (AD 500-800), and reconstructing what is was like to be a villager in the Egyptian countryside.

💛 Egypt (Tell Timai)

The Tell Timai Archaeological Project

Tell Timai is an ancient Greco-Roman city of Thmuis, nestled near a branch of the Nile River in northeast Egypt. Dating from c. 450 BC – 900 AD, it was once considered one of the most important cities in Egypt. Since 2007, excavations here have been undertaken as part of this project to uncover more about this fascinating ancient site. In this talk, Hal Bonnette reveals some of their latest discoveries.

💛 Ethiopia

Solomonic Zagwe Encounter Project (SolZag)

What was power and dynastic change like in medieval Ethiopia? In this talk, archaeologist Tania Tribe reveals new research from two sites; Unesco World Heritage site of Lalibela, and the church of Gännätä Maryam, an hour’s journey away. While Gännätä Maryam is known for its beautiful wall paintings, including one of King Yekunno Amlak – the founder of the Solomonic dynasty, Lalibela, the powerbase of the previous dynasty, stands out for not having any.

This project explores the various churches – from rock-hewn to those hidden in caves – that are connected to each of these dynasties, powers in order to understand what changed. Excitingly, as more is discovered, experts have been able to expand their knowledge, not only of these churches, but of the wider community itself.

💛 Finland

Stone Age sites in Sokli, Savukoski, Finnish Lapland

Imagine getting a glimpse of never-before-seen insights into the wilderness of North-East Lapland. Ahead of new mining projects in the region, archaeologists are investigating 17 new sites – mainly Stone Age. Four of the sites, nestled in the vicinity of Loitsana Lake, were excavated by the Archaeological Field Services of the Finnish Heritage Agency between August and September 2019. In this talk, Vesu Lalumaa will reveal footage of these findings as they happened, and information from post-excavation analysis – it’s the first time ever that these discoveries will have been presented to the public!

💚 Greece

The CARTography Project

The CARTography Project (Cataloguing Ancient Routes and Travels in the Mani Peninsula) is a ground-breaking new research initiative which uses several disciplines to track early explorers as they journeyed to the Mani peninsula in southern Lakonia. Combining excavation, GIS and experimental hikes, this project hopes to redefine our understanding of pre-modern travel in the area. In this project, Chelsea Gardner reveals some of their findings.

💚 India


Excavations at the Iron Age-early Historical Burial Site of Siruthavoor in Tamil Nadu, South India, took place from 2006 until 2019. In this talk, Smriti Haricharan reveals how the project’s discoveries shed light on the intricacies of burial in ancient and Early Historical India. But most intriguingly, their investigations have revealed as much about the past, as they have about the relationships between the local communities and the archaeologists themselves.

💚 Italy

Archeologia Padova Medievale

In Italy there are difficulties when it comes to developing archaeological research for and with local communities, due to legislative restrictions. This presentation by Alexandra Chavarria proposes new ways to overcome these problems using participatory summer schools to rebuild the relationship between communities in northern Italy, and their own heritage. Join to hear about the successes and challenges that come with this Padua-based project, which hopes to embark on the ever-important task of re-engaging people with their past.

💚 Jordan

Children, theatre and Tales of Stones

How do children interact with heritage? ‘Sela for Training and Protection of Heritage’ helps communities take care of their heritage. In ‘Tales of Stones’, they mix heritage and theatre for children in Jordan, helping youngsters to connect with history on a completely new level, and create a sustainable appreciation for the rich cultural heritage of Jordan’s diverse communities. In this talk, Maria Elena Roze reveals how they’ve got on.

💚 Jordan (Black Desert)

The Missing Link Project

Ahmad Al-Jallad is a philologist, epigraphist, and historian of language. His work focuses on the languages and writing systems of pre-Islamic Arabia and the ancient Near East. Along with his research partners Zuhair al-Qadi and Ali al-Manaser, they’ve been out in the Jordanian Harrah – the Black Desert – where the rocks, stones and boulders that cover the desert floor are marked with pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions. Each one provides a snapshot of someone’s life, and heartwarming details from thousands of years ago.

🖤 Mali

Excavations at Segu

Daouda Keïta is an archaeologist and director of the National Museum of Mali in Bamako. He has recently been excavating at Segu – one of the most powerful pre-colonial empires of Mali. In this interview, he talks to our team about his recent discoveries, and how he works with local communities to protect the country’s heritage.

(In French, with English subtitles)

🖤 Mesopotamia (Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey)

Cuneiform: the reality TV show of the ancient world

Cuneiform was one of the earliest writing systems invented and used in Mesopotamia. These distinctive tablets contain stories and details of everyday people that remind us how much like our contemporary selves they really were. In this talk, Moudhy Al-Rashid reveals some of the tales you can find buried in these ancient texts.

🖤 Mexico

Tihosuco Heritage Preservation and Community Development Project

The Caste War of Yucatan (also known as the Maya Social War) is generally acknowledged as the longest and most successful indigenous rebellion in Latin American history. Tihosuco, a small town in southern Mexico with a long colonial history, was abandoned during this 60-year war, eventually being re-settled once more in the 1930s.  In this talk, the team reveals how the project has been exploring the rich and diverse local culture and the evolving Maya identity, in the hopes of contributing to Tihosuco’s future.

🖤 Norway

TerrACE (Terrace Archaeology and Culture in Europe)

The TerrACE project is a state-of-the-art project looking into agriculture across the whole of Europe using new and exciting scientific techniques. From soil chemistry to DNA analysis, soil samples are shedding new light on how the farmers of the past perfected their craft by increasing their soil productivity, and just what crops they were growing to feed themselves and their animals. Recent TerrACE excavations have revealed series of terraces which date back to the early Iron Age – if not even earlier.

🖤 Norway (Borgund)

The Borgund Kaupang Project

The Borgund Kaupang Project (BKP) digs into the everyday life of the town folks of the deserted medieval town Borgund in western Norway. One of only 14 medieval towns in Norway, this elusive settlement disappeared from history after 1570, before being rediscovered in 1953. Over 45,000 objects, human and animal remains, as well as documentation from 30+ seasons of excavations, are held in the archives of over University Museum of Bergen – but little was ever done with them, until now. In this talk, Gitte Hansen reveals the exciting new methods the team is using to shed new light on the history of Borgund.

🖤 Oman

Unearth Fulayj

Seth Priestman is helping archaeologists in Oman to explore a newly-discovered fort built by the Persian Sasanian Empire in the 5th century AD, previously lost  on the Batinah plain. Connected with great plans for military expansion that stretched into Eastern Arabia and as far as the shores of the Indian Ocean, and later transformed in a domestic residence after the conversion to Islam in Oman during the mid-7th century, this  site has much to tell us about the past. In this talk, Seth reveals how the international team has been working hard to explore this momentous juncture in world history through their range of archaeological finds, big and small.

💙 Slovenia

Landscape of Ancestors

Jošt Hobič ia an archaeologist who has been investigating the prehistoric and late Roman hillfort of Ajdovščina in the Western part of Slovenia with Zavod Dobra pot – a non-governmental organisation. Join to discover the wonderful remains of defensive walls and towers, late Roman phase houses and streets… and some of the heartwarming ways their projects have reminded people that everyone has something good to give.

💙 South Africa

The Steinaecker’s Horse Archaeological Project

Steinaecker’s Horse was a volunteer unit who fought with the British during the Anglo Boer War (1899-1902). Their goal was to prevent contact between the Boers and pro-Boer supporters in Mozambique. Launched in 1997, the project team has investigated some of their outposts, specifically those in the Kruger National Park area, in an attempt to understand the lives of these soldiers, and their connections with local communities. In this talk, the team reveals the ins and outs of this unit’s role during the war.

💙 Turkmenistan

Central Asian Archaeological Landscapes (CAAL)

Stretching from the Caspian Sea to western China, Central Asia is full of vibrant and varied archaeology. Unfortunately, much of this is under threat or understudied. CAAL, made possible by the Arcadia Fund, has brought together nearly twenty institutions across seven countries to produce an open access digital record of all this amazing archaeology. In this talk, Tim Williams reveals some of the findings, and how it can help preserve and manage this important cultural landscape.


💙 UK (Lancashire)

Barrowed Time

Along with henges and hillforts, barrows are one of the most characteristic monuments of Britain’s prehistoric landscape. Dating from around 3,000BC, these earthen funerary mounds can vary in size from five to six meters in diameter to over fifty. But in Lancashire, very few had ever been found … until now.

Along with metal detectorists, archaeologists from DigVentures and Durham University have been making some remarkable Bronze Age discoveries.

💙 UK (Orkney)

The Underworld Inside Maeshowe

Ancient chambered tombs were the final resting place for many Neolithic people in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Jay van der Reijden has been researching the interior designs within the walling of these impressive passage graves. In this video, you can follow her on a journey through her findings at Maeshowe. Why were the side-chambers upside down in comparison to the main chamber? From her results, Jay proposes these side-chambers were built for the dead as a physical manifestation of an inverted Underworld.

💙 UK (Sussex)

Music, archaeology, and ancient giants?! ‘On Windover Hill’ examines the creative responses to the famous giant, chalk hill figure – Long Man of Wilmington. Composer Nathan James has collaborated with authors, poets, artists and musicians, to build a picture of how people are inspired by this archaeological feature, culminating with a performance of a new choral cantata written by Nathan James himself, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Harlequin Chamber Choir accompanied by dancers from First Dance Studios. It’s a totally unique take on archaeology, founded in creative expression. Watch and see if you don’t form your own relationship with the giant!

💜 UK (Northumberland)


In AD635, King Oswald founded a monastery on the tiny island of Lindisfarne. It quickly became the beating heart of the powerful early Medieval kingdom of Northumbria, and was the wellspring of England’s Christianity, producing treasures like the Lindisfarne Gospels. But in AD 793, Vikings attacked. In this talk, archaeologists Lisa Westcott Wilkins and David Petts reveal how their teams have been uncovering the remains of the original monastery, and of the people who lived on the island before, during and after the Viking raids – with help from people all over the world.

💜 Under the sea (The Solent)

Bouldnor Cliff

Wind the clock back 8,000 years to the Mesolithic and you’ll discover a time, long before Stonehenge had even been thought of, when Britain was still connected to mainland Europe and families lived on land that is now below the English Channel. Garry Momber and his team of underwater archaeologists from the Maritime Archaeology Trust are on a mission to save as much evidence as they can, by diving into the murky depths of the Solent – a busy shipping lane, with currents so strong they could sweep you away.

💜 UK (Council for British Archaeology)

To Participation and Beyond

The year 2020 has brought with it new territory for archaeologists. With the recent lockdown, heritage has had to adapt so we can keep bringing the joy of the past to the wider public, from within their homes! Come join to hear about how the CBA is supporting participation and active archaeology in lockdown.

💜 USA (Maryland)

Josiah Henson Museum at Montgomery Parks

This is the site where the Reverend Josiah Henson – an escaped slave, minister, abolitionist, and late 19th-century celebrity – was enslaved between c. 1800-1830, along with more than 20 others. Once known as the Riley Farm, the plantation covered over 600 acres. Archaeological excavations have revealed that parts of the Riley plantation remain, covered by the green lawns of modern suburban lots. In this talk, Cassandra Michaud reveals how the team at Montgomery Parks is converting the site into a public museum, dedicated to telling the story of Josiah Henson.

💜 USA (North Dakota & Wyoming)

Elk Power

Emily Van Alst is studying Lakota women’s relationship to rock art, and how images of elks are related to the cultural and environmental landscape. Emily graduated from Yale in 2016, and is an archaeologist of Sihasapa Lakota descent. Her research focuses on indigenous women’s participation in the creation and use of rock art in pre-contact society on the Northern Plains. She uses the lenses of indigenous archaeology, feminist archaeology, and indigenous feminism to frame her work within a broader social context. Along with other archaeological techniques, she has been speaking to Lakota women, to understand what these images mean.


💜 USA (Texas)

Coastal Bend Archaeological Logistics Team (CoBALT)

CoBALT is an avocational archaeology group with impressive credentials and decades of experience. The group formed during the excavation of La Salle’s French settlement Fort St Louis, and some also worked on the earlier cofferdam excavation of La Salle’s shipwreck La Belle. They have been working on a site of significance in South Texas for 17 years. This site was discovered randomly after locals were finding artefacts and bones in their topsoil and gravel. This material had been mined off the surface of a local ranch property and sold as garden fill. In this talk, Heather Para reveals how their investigations have revealed some great finds, which seem to suggest a massive 10,000 years of habitation by humans.


That’s how many people describe the experience of visiting an archaeological site, taking part in an excavation, or going to a blockbuster exhibition filled with ancient artefacts.

All around the world, archaeological digs have been postponed, museums have been closed, and conferences cancelled. But there are still plenty of archaeologists out there who want to share their discoveries, and the amazing stories they have about their work, with you!

DigNation is a two-day virtual festival that brings together some the most brilliant archaeologists across the globe whose search for the past has been affected by the pandemic.

From Albania to ancient DNA, from Chile to Croatia, from England to Ethiopia, and from Italy to India, for 48 hours, we’re going to be streaming talks from archaeologists around the world who want to give you a behind-the-scenes look at the incredible ancient sites they’ve been working on that most people will never have heard of – but really should!

DigNation Festival is free to attend, and you can watch online from anywhere in the world.

All you have to do is register and BOOM – you’ll have free tickets to a whole weekend of talks about amazing ancient sites, straight from the archaeologists who have been investigating them.

We’re still setting up the virtual stage, hanging up the virtual bunting, and still adding more and more speakers to the line-up. As soon as it’s all ready, we’ll email you to let you know what the final programme is, and how to login. We can’t wait to see you there!


Can I re-watch the talks after the event?

YES! The talks will be available to replay and re-watch whenever you like.

Is it free, and can I watch from anywhere in the world?

YES and YES! The festival is taking place entirely online, so as long as you’ve registered, and have a decent internet connection, you’ll be able to join in – and it won’t cost you a penny.

If you enjoy it, and want to help us do more stuff like this, you can, of course, choose to make a contribution of £5, £10, or £15.

How do I login?

We’re still setting up the the virtual stage, so you can’t login just yet. As soon as it’s ready, we’ll email everyone who has registered with the login.

You’ll also be able to find a login button on our homepage when it’s ready.

I've registered, but haven't received any emails about the event?

Once you’ve registered, you should receive an ‘Order Confirmation’ email straight away. You should receive a second ‘Welcome to Big Dig Energy’ email within the next 15 minutes.

If you don’t see it in your inbox, remember to check your junkmail and promotions folders – our event emails sometimes end up in there.

If you’ve checked your junkmail and promotions folders, but still can’t see any emails from us, it might be because you entered your email address with a typo when you registered. Don’t worry! We’ve all done it! Just try registering again.

The pure magic of uncovering the past is exactly what gets archaeologists out of bed every morning, and we want to share that with you.

The fate of archaeology might seem trivial in the light of the much wider impact of the global pandemic, but history, heritage, and culture matter to everyone. And it’s not just the fact that museums and cultural centres are closed – the remains of ancient sites and monuments are often vulnerable to the attritional effects of agriculture, weather events, development, and looting – especially when people can’t get out there to look after them.

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve seen a global surge of interest in archaeology from people in all sorts of circumstances – from key workers working double shifts to those on furlough – who want to keep their minds occupied, learn something new, and make the most of any opportunities to enjoy the things they love, at home.

Our goal is to ensure that archaeology is not forgotten during this global crisis – and that even when most archaeologists are working alone and in isolation, we can still come together and bring amazing research to the attention of the world.

That’s why DigVentures is making this year’s DigNation Festival a free, virtual event that is open and accessible to everyone – so that together, we can showcase the best archaeology this planet has to offer, and bring the experience straight into your hands, hearts and homes for you to enjoy.


Over the next few weeks, the line-up for DigNation is going to be building rapidly. We’ve already heard back from projects across all four corners of the globe, and you can expect talks on everything from rock art, ancient DNA, and Neolithic passage tombs, to the latest discoveries using LIDAR.

Nobody really knows what the future holds, but one thing we can count on for sure: we’ll always have archaeology! Join us for the weekend and you’ll get to hear from some of the most exciting, diverse, fantastic projects that we’ve ever heard of – and plenty that we haven’t!

DigNation logo 2020

DigNation was launched in 2018 with our first-ever festival. Hosted by Sir Tony Robinson, DigNation 2018 was held on Lindisfarne as well as streamed live to international ticketholders. Incorporating a live excavation, lectures and a Fringe, the sold-out event was a celebration of Mick Aston’s career, with speakers from across his many projects as well as colleagues from Time Team.

Once you’ve registered, you’ll receive an email containing your unique link to enter the festival. All you have to do is click it to get started.

Not received your email? Remember to check your spam and junkmail folders!

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